Good evening Wilderness! Fans were welcomed back in to the Xcel Energy Center this morning for a White vs. Green inter-squad scrimmage. There was a decent sized crowd skipping church, or skipping the Church of the NFL to take in Minnesota Wild training camp. The format for today's scrimmage was three 20-minute periods, one minute penalty times, and they utilized hybrid icing. Remember that during the NHL preseason this year, they will be using hybrid icing leading up to the season. Chances are, hybrid icing will be instituted all season long too.
Niklas Backstrom started in the net for Team White and Josh Harding for Team Green. You might as well have called Team White, Team Finn because Koivu, Backstrom, Haula, and Granlund were all in white today.
Mathew Dumba and Clayton Stoner were paired together and Dumba looked really good. He looks like he has really improved his skating. Stoner, on the other hand, still needs to get off the wall. Dumba and Stoner also manned the blue line in Team White's second power play unit.
First penalty of the day went to Green's Kyle Medvec for holding. Remember, in today's game, they only go to the box and feel shame for one minute. This was everyone's first opportunity to see the first power play unit comprising of Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Jonas Brodin. While they didn't score in their first attempt, they did move the puck around and got shots through to the net. That's a nice thing with Brodin - not only is he smart, elusive, can skate like the wind, and good on his stick, but he can routinely get his shot through to the net. He continues to make it look it easy out there. Also on this power play, you could really see a main focus of camp come through; the activation of the defensemen. Suter, twice on the short power play was seen pinching in from the point and in one instance, Koivu found him open in the left face-off dot.
At center ice, after the penalty had expired, there was a sequence in which Brodin poke-checked the puck away and then sent Koivu in all alone on Josh Harding. Koivu got a good, hard shot away, but Harding was equal to the task.
Dany Heatley took a tripping penalty and upon exiting the box receives the puck for a chance alone in on Backstrom. Heatley was on a line with Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle today. They were physical and tough in the offensive zone. This line combination intrigues me a lot and I hope to see the chemistry evolve throughout camp.
Jonathon Blum has been showing that he can be a serviceable defenseman in the NHL in camp so far, and he laid a heavy hit on Kris Foucault.
The first penalty to go against Team White was a tripping minor on Stephane Veileux, who seemed to march to the box all game long. This gave us a chance to see Team Green's first power play unit. Coyle was centering Niederreiter and Heatley, and Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella manning the blue line. The group moved the puck around well and got decent pressure on Team White. Coyle found some room coming off the wall and hit the crossbar.
Jason Zucker put Team White on the board first on a nice set-up pass from Granlund. Shortly after the Zucker goal, Parise picks up the dump-in from Ryan Suter and finds Jason Pominville alone point-blank for Team White's second goal. As Hockey Wilderness' own Emilie tweeted out today, "that [top line] has been oozing chemistry all over the ice." The same line would later on put on a clinic to soon-to-be NHLers in the Green zone for a great shift that caused fans to applause after they left the ice.
Torrey Mitchell finally put Team Green on the board with a goal off the rush with a nice spin-a-round backhand pass from Matt Cooke. Cooke was able to get to the puck after Dumba sold out on the play by leaping to bat the puck out of the zone and missed. It was a nice play all-together.
Matt Dumba would redeem himself later with an assist on Koivu goal. He took a shot/pass from the left point and Parise just barely failed to put it away after the deflection sailed just wide. Dumba followed his shot behind the net and dished it out to Koivu who wouldn't miss this time.
Matt Cooke would receive big cheers from the crowd after he sniped Johan Gustafsson from the right-wing boards that just snuck underneath the crossbar. The assist on Cooke's goal would come from Jonathon Blum, who pinched in from the blue line to help out with keeping possession in the right corner.
Team Green would pull Kuemper with one minute remaining but could not get the equalizer. Team White would go on to win 3-2 and the whole squad would give a salute to the fans in attendance. All-in-all, the scrimmage was fast and intense. We saw some really good skill on the ice and saw some the other prospects like Dumba, Haula, and Phillips take a step in their growth.
The Wild will now look forward to Tuesday night, when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in their preseason opener. Columbus is in action tonight versus the Penguins. Stick a fork in Day 4 of Wild training camp because it is done.